Fall 2005 Awards

Democracy Promotion and Electoral Revolutions in Postcommunist Eurasia 
Valerie Bunce, Department of Government

(When) Should Knowledge Be Controlled? Knowledge Spillovers and Firms’ Innovation Behavior
Aija Leiponen, Department of Applied Economics and Management

The Social Distribution of Hope
Hirokazu Miyazaki, Department of Anthropology

A New Social Indicators Framework for Measuring Trends in Inequality
Kim A. Weeden, Department of Sociology

Strategy & Sincerity in Democratic Party Systems
Robert Weiner, Department of Government

The Development of Social Capital and Transactive Memories Systems
Connie Y. Yuan, Department of Communications

Democracy Promotion and Electoral Revolutions in Post-communist Eurasia 
Valerie Bunce, Department of Government

Over the past seven years, citizens across post-communist Eurasia have used elections to challenge the power of dictators. In some cases, they have succeeded—by defeating them at the polls and, where necessary, using popular protests to force leaders to abide by the verdict of the voters. These mobilizations, in turn, have sometimes led to the creation of more authentic democracies. However, in other cases, these efforts have failed—in dislodging illiberal leaders and in building democratic polities. This project uses a variety of materials, including in-depth interviews with local and international participants, to compare successful and unsuccessful electoral revolutions in nine post-communist countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Croatia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

Update: This study resulted in a book, Defeating Authoritarian Leaders in Post Communist Countries, published in 2011.

(When) Should Knowledge Be Controlled? Knowledge Spillovers and Firms’ Innovation Behavior
Aija Leiponen, Department of Applied Economics and Management

Given the significance of knowledge in structuring the economy and advancing development, understanding how to balance the need to ensure firms have incentives to invest in innovation while sustaining a convention of openness in knowledge creation is a critical social science question. A team of three investigators, one from Cornell University and two from research institutions in Finland, will work together to produce a review of relevant literature on firms’ intellectual property strategies, a preliminary analysis of existing data, and a new survey instrument to collect additional data.  The long-term goal is to contribute to a comparative institutional perspective on the economics and management of knowledge.

Update: The main results of the paper suggest that very few small firms find protection for their intellectual assets provided by patents to be very important or useful. Most firms in the sample rely on trade secrets or quick market launch instead. In particular, small firms that collaborate vertically (with their clients or suppliers) tend to compete on time to market as a way to benefit from their innovation activities. These results are in stark contrast with the current intellectual property rights debate that centers on the patent system. This project is in the process of collaborating with with Prof. Markku Maula, Helsinki University of Technology, and Dr. Ari Hyytinen, Bank of Finland, and has succeeded in obtaining a grant of 20,000 euros from the Academy of Finland.

The Social Distribution of Hope 
Hirokazu Miyazaki, Department of Anthropology

Working with researchers in Sydney and Tokyo, Miyazaki plans to organize workshops and conferences in Australia, Japan and the U.S. featuring empirical and comparative research on the social dimensions of hope in the U.S. The researchers plan to publish a collection of research papers and advance a comparative and comprehensive understanding of how society produces and distributes hope.

A New Social Indicators Framework for Measuring Trends in Inequality
Kim A. Weeden, Department of Sociology

This project seeks to put the measurement of inequality, and its fluctuations over time, on solid empirical footing. Its premise is that the many available approaches to measuring inequality (e.g., income reports, socioeconomic scales, class schemes) should be converted from discipline-specific preferences or tastes to testable hypotheses about the structure of a multidimensional inequality space comprising endowments and investments (e.g., education), working conditions (e.g., type of employment contract), and job rewards (e.g., income, wealth). By exploiting recent developments in latent class modeling, the project will formally evaluate the ability of conventional measurement approaches to characterize the inequality space in a given time period. In the process, it will address fundamental questions about the form of inequality in the United States, questions that have been largely ignored in the rush to describe trends in the extent of income inequality: Is inequality increasingly taking on a “big-class” form in which classes correspond to aggregations of detailed occupations, a “micro-class” form in which classes correspond to detailed occupations, or a more heterogeneous constellation of positions at the site of production? Is a true underclass emerging? Is the “middle class” breaking down? Does the site of production remain the breeding ground of inequality, or are inequalities in wealth or education becoming ever more fundamental? Are the various dimensions of inequality crystallizing on gradational lines, such that simple income reports or socioeconomic scales are increasingly accurate ways to simplify the inequality space? The main broader impact of the project is the development of a methodological framework enabling social scientists and policy makers to monitor trends in the form of inequality, a task that takes on special importance once the multi-dimensionality of inequality is appreciated.

Updates: This research was recognized by the Institute for the Social Sciences in the piece “Small Grant Breaks Down Disciplinary Borders in Study of Inequality” in 2007. ISS’ Director, Kim Weeden, Finds Men’s “Overwork” Widens Gender Gap Wages (2013).

Strategy & Sincerity in Democratic Party Systems
Robert Weiner , Department of Government

Research on political party competition and party system evolution generally assumes that political parties are strategic – that they pick their battles. Strategic parties run candidates only in elections they expect to win, and efficiently conserve resources by foregoing less promising races. But at least as many parties subvert theoretical assumptions and act sincerely: they run candidates in all elections as a matter of course, apparently concerned more with their roles and duties as parties than with any cost-benefit calculations. Researchers should be concerned, then, with how parties vary between strategic and sincere approaches – and so should citizens, since parties’ competition patterns have profound effects on policy choices and quality of representation. But when and why parties vary between strategy and sincerity has largely been ignored by party researchers, and remains little understood. My project first aims to address three basic-research questions: How prevalent is strategic behavior (in established democracies with district-based elections)? How does one systematically distinguish strategic from sincere behavior in the first place? And why are some parties strategic and others sincere? The answers will lay a foundation for deeper and more general work on how these patterns evolve within and shape democratic party system development. An ISS Seed Grant would support one portion of the basic research process: one month of fieldwork in Japan, whose unusually diverse party system makes it ideal as an initial-research site.

The Development of Social Capital and Transactive Memories Systems
Connie Y. Yuan, Department of Communications

The purpose of this project is to study the social dynamics of collaboration across cultures and contexts. The project will investigate the development of transactive memory systems and social capital in communities of collaboration using both empirical social network analysis and agent-based computer simulations. Community wares grounded in recent development in social science research will be designed and implemented to facilitate collaborative work. The project will collect longitudinal data, both qualitative and quantitative, to evaluate the relative effectiveness of the community wares in support of collaborative work in both co-located and distributed communities, and in both same-culture and different-culture communities.

Update: This project involved the sponsorship two graduate students in the year of 2006 to develop and test an expertise recommendation system that is grounded on the basic premises of transactive memory theory and social capital. The research studied both positive social capital that people can access from friendship ties, and negative social capital from adversarial relations. This project assisted in the development of two journal publications, including Homophily of network ties, and bonding and bridging social capital in distributed teams, published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication in 2006.